How to find competitor and do competitor analysis on Contextual Advertising (PPC)

You have been around the block enough to know the value of a competitor analysis for your company, I’m sure. But when it comes to paid search, it’s extra important. And it is perhaps not done as often as it should be. At Digital marketing agency Atomic Leap, we bake the scientific approach into everything we do, and competitor analysis of clients’ Google rivals is very much part of this.

So let’s take a look at the ways you can gain insight into your competitors and the value it brings you, as well as some of the tools – free and paid – that can help you achieve a good understanding and further your goals.

Understanding who your competitors are

A good competitor analysis for paid search, ppc marketing will actually tell you much more than who your competitors are. Because the industry is so data driven, there’s a lot of information which you can use to refine your overall PPC strategy.

The most important thing to learn from your competitor analysis is how to differentiate from them. With the right tools you can track their ad messaging over time and see how this develops. Learning what works for your competitors can not only provide you with ideas on how to differentiate, but also you can use some of their messaging as a test in your own ads.

You do of course, though, want to know who they are too (it may be obvious, but it’s worth highlighting that they will not necessarily be the same companies who compete with you in the physical world or even on other platforms).

Add to this, you want to know “what” they are: what type of organisation and where they are in the food chain in relation to you. This will vary by which industry you are in, and what you are selling. But consider that it is unlikely to be just mirror-images of your business which are competing for clicks with you. There could be affiliates, resellers, comparison shopping engines, partners and search arbitragers to name a few.

Doing this regularly will provide real insight into your competitive landscape. You can see when new competitors enter the market, seasonal variation in behaviour and how the market responds to big external events. It will help you act early on keyword trends and, by looking at competitor messaging and landing pages, you can refine your own.

Free tools: Auction Insights, Google Trends, Keyword Estimator

There are free tools to show you how well you (and your competitors) are doing, as well as for what your target market are searching.

Auction Insights is available within Google (and Microsoft for that matter) and shows you a good level of information on how your competitors are bidding against you on your keywords.

Using overlap rate, position above rate and outranking share are all useful ways to see how you are performing against your competitors. You can view these reports by specific campaigns so you can see how competition varies by types of keywords – or whatever your campaign settings are.

Over time, you can use it to build up your understanding of who competitors are on specific keywords, how you are all performing relatively, any changes in competitor behaviour and any new competitors that start bidding on your keywords.

Auction insights is the main way to review your Google ads competitors for free, but it isn’t the only way.

Google Trends and Keyword Planner focus on the keywords and your audience. Google Trends shows you the popularity of specific search terms on Google and YouTube. So you can use it to see what is trending, find subtopics and spot geographical nuance.

One particularly useful aspect is the Breakout Words feature which highlights words that have experienced 5,000% growth rate in usage. This gives you the opportunity to bid on new effective keywords before they become competitive. Be careful though that the trend does not pass as quickly as it arrived.

Keyword planner is helpful for understanding search volume and competitiveness of keywords as well as suggesting alternative keywords.

Google searches themselves can be useful for some casual competitor research too. You can see which ads are being served up, what the messaging is, and at the bottom of a search page are up to eight suggested search terms. Just be wary that heavy use could skew what you see as Google will start to react to your behaviour of not clicking on ads and stop showing you ads altogether.

Paid tools summary

Before you start analyzing competitors’ ads, you need to find tools for yourself with which the study will be as efficient and easy as possible. There are, of course, a myriad of paid tools you can use to help with your Google competitor analysis (as well as the general running of your PPC campaigns), some of which we use ourselves at Atomic Leap. We will briefly describe the services that will help to cope with this task.

KeywordCompetitor finds the paid keywords, ads and landing pages of your competitors and updates you with the daily changes so you can see how the market is moving.

SEMrush is a quick way to see who is advertising on keywords you plan to use, the other keywords they are using and their ad copy.

sermrush for ppc

SpyFu. An amazing tool to dominate your competition. Service shows you the most profitable combination of keyword and ad copy from your competitors on target keywords.

competitor analysis with spyfu

Adthena is a more comprehensive and accurate view of how competitors are bidding, but only on the terms you select

Similarweb. Allows you to find out the domains of competitors, the number and sources of traffic, the percentage of traffic from organic search and PPC.

Compatitor analysis in Simularweb
paid competitor similar web

How to analyze competitors in contextual advertising

Anyone can understand where their Google ads account is going right or wrong and be in a position to drive change and boost ROI, including looking at competitors. Take a look at 5 simple steps to do PPC competitor analysis:

Key phrases

Semantics research will help you find promising keywords for your site. Keywords are the basis of an advertising campaign. How many people will see your ad depends on the correct selection of keywords. Keywords analysis will show which keywords each competitor uses for targeting; relevance of keywords and landing pages; whether brand queries with the name of competitors are used.
This helps make it easier to collect semantics for your advertising campaign. You can also find ideas for new keys

Ad titles and text

Analysis of competitors’ ads will prompt successful ideas for your own campaigns. Find out the general trends: what headlines are written more and less often, what descriptions are made by other companies, which CTAs are using. This will help you see the strengths and weaknesses of each particular competitor.

Completeness of ads

Pay attention to whether your competitors use extensions and add-ons, whether contact details are filled in, whether dynamic advertising campaigns and site links are used. Additional ad extensions will allow you to stand out from competitors and attract the attention of users. An analysis of extensions will help to understand the trends in the sphere: whether it is necessary to leave a number or not, which pages additional links are usually placed on, whether prices indicate. Pay attention to all extensions in ads, and also see which tricks are used most often.

Additional ad extensions for competitor analysis

Landing page quality

Landing pages are the first thing a user sees when they click on a link from a search engine. Analyze the landing pages of competitors for their completeness, relevance, way of presenting information and design.

Campaign Budget

The calculation of the advertising budget will give an understanding of what approximate costs your campaigns will have. Many factors influence pricing in contextual advertising; it is not possible to find out the exact budget of competitors in Google Ads. However, this does not exclude the possibility of determining the approximate costs of competing companies.

Competitor analysis in Google Ads

After launching an advertising campaign, Google AdWords gives advertisers the opportunity to get information about who is in competition with you for a particular request, whether you are ahead of your competitors or behind. To do this, use the special report “Auction Statistics”.  With this Google Adwords Competitor Analysis Report, you will benefit from:

  • List of sites that are also shown for a specific request or group of requests;
  • Percentage of impressions received – determines the share of impressions that were received in a specific period of time for your campaign and competitors;
  • Average position of your ads in search results in comparison with other sites;
  • The degree of intersection – how often your ads got into the same SERP with competitors;
  • Win percentage – shows how often your ad was higher in the rankings than others;
  • Next position coefficient – shows how often a competitor’s ad is higher than yours in one search results;
  • The ratio of showing ads above the search results – shows how often your or another advertiser’s ad was shown above the search results, respectively, the algorithm considered it more relevant to the query.

Further advice on Google competitor analysis

As I said earlier, data is at the heart of PPC and there is a lot of information available to you from different sources. At PPC agency Atomic Leap, we always recommend regular competitive analysis to give you a competitive edge. For help on setting this up, contact our team today.

Wayland Coles


Wayland Coles is MD and Founder digital performance marketing agency Atomic Leap, where he helps businesses of all sizes capitalize on the power of PPC marketing.

LinkedIn: Wayland Cole